Mostly Human

Birmingham International airport has one very big thing going for it, it is not Heathrow. So the experience is marginally less unpleasant, slightly quicker and dispatched under the generally cheery auspices of officiating brummies.

But I don’t want to accentuate the positive here; it’s still fundamentally a dreadful way to travel. Not only did I map out the ten hour trip to Amsterdam by car, I very nearly grabbed my passport, a wad of tunnel funds and some pro-plus in order to drive there. I’m still not sure it was the right decision to fly.

Of the many horrors awaiting anyone careless enough to be trapped in a major Airport orbit, a prize for the most demeaning, pointless and wasting of time has to be the security checks. First let’s do pointless – actually let’s not because Bruce Schneier is significantly better informed and qualified that me.

Demeaning? Absolutely. It’s actually kind of interesting to watch a self-referential business person transformed to mumbling apologist on removal of their suited armour. Clothes maketh the man (or – and possibly – more noticeably Women) eh? There’s something in that I think, from all the research thirty minutes of watching it happening to other people.

Also briefcases? Definitely old school business accessory that. I counted more squashy man-bags than plastic Samsonite squares and this is the West Midlands, not some sophisticated metropolis. Because I knew what was coming – although by Christ I didn’t think it could possibly take so long on a Winters’ morning at 6am – my clothing, electrical accoutrements and hand luggage had been carefully chosen.

No laptop for a start. Two days with corporate lifeblood squeezed through the restricted optical arteries of a dumbphone. No suit because the Dutch office is of the opinion that a tie is not terribly important*. No little baggy for my toiletries either. An oversight mocked by the looping videos on how to remove your jacket – I guess to better show any concealed firearms – and the appropriate presentation style for exploding shampoo.

I had plenty of time to dream up a range of excuses ranging from “No shampoo, check out the thatch, can we compromise that toothpaste isn’t a liquid?” to “That man over there, yes him, he stole it, and he was messing about with his shoes as well“. Second one should have distracted the dozy staff enough for me to hurdle the barrier and make a run for it. Possibly ending with being shot by less dopy armed police, but embarrassment saved from having to beg for a ziplock.

The airport used to have two terminals. Now it has one. The upshot is a phalanx of herded passengers pressed into not-so-neat queues all waiting for one working scanner. On remarking at this apparently obvious bottleneck, my reward was a long suffering “well the new machines are slower and we’re not allowed to have any extra staff” followed by what I can only describe as a “trade union snort of derision“.

So we queued and queued in that uniquely British “musn’t grumble” approach to organised stupidity. Except for the expensively suited tribe who tapped Blackberry’s and watches, demanded to be upgraded to first-in-line, before being reduced to sheepishness by scanner wielding busybodies in a strange game of strip poker.**

My turn tut-tutted those behind, once my polite request for a bag was met with a large bellied man demanding to know if “he was a bloody bag salesman” to which one can only respond with “I don’t know, are you? If so, I’m in luck eh?“. Rather than the cavity search such cleverness probably deserved, he cracked a weary smile and fetched something rather less threatening than the rubber gloves I expected.

I made the plane with about 30 seconds to spare. Through the departure gate essentially mooning at the shocked gate staff, with my still unbelted trousers showing a fair slab of builders arse. Honestly in future, I’ll just get my ticket tattoo’d on there.

Next month France beckons. I’m going on the train.

* So easy to bore you all with a diatribe on the laughable conflicts of corporate uniform. But I shall not. As future employment is important to me.

** If you read this in a certain way, it does sound like an exceedingly hasty form of foreplay.

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